CORAL GABLES (CBSMiami) – The University of Miami, ranked 14th in the nation and undefeated, heads to Atlanta playing at Georgia Tech 3-1 at noon Saturday.
It’s the Canes first ACC game and they go in with some impressive numbers. Miami has scored 153 points, averaging 51 per game, which is sixth best in the NCAA and second behind Louisville in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Miami has also out gained their opponents 1,542 yards to 652.
“We put a lot of pride in being able to run the ball well,” said Canes head coach Mark Richt. “When people talk about balance, balance for me is if they pack everybody in the box to stop the run, then we must be able to throw good enough in those situations. If they start double-covering our receivers, and give us a softer box as far as numbers, we must be able to run the ball.”
“I think we’ve got a good mix of that,” Richt added. “When you add [run-pass option] to that…when you come to the line of scrimmage, it might be a run. If they look one way, if they look a different way, you might throw it out there. I think we’re diverse enough. Really, it comes down to our ability to execute the plays that we call. I think they’ll be sound plays. I think guys will have to block and get movement, and block and get space for the quarterback, as far as a pocket.”
Georgia Tech’s defense is allowing just 14 points per game and is particularly tough in the red zone. In 12 trips inside the Georgia Tech 20-yard-line, opponents have come away with only six scores.
The Yellow Jacket pass rush is still a work in progress with just five sacks this season, so it seems unlikely that the they will be able to bother Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya.
Tech does do a good job of preventing long passes. They prefer to give space and short plays.
While Georgia Tech’s defense is giving up a high percentage of passes (64.7), it’s not allowing many deep plays. Tech has allowed nine pass plays of at least 20 yards, but none have gone more than 32 yards. Opponents are averaging 6.4 yards per pass and 9.9 yards per catch as part of 218.2 yards per game.
“Quarterbacks have to make good decisions and hit their target,” said Richt. “Guys have to catch the ball – probably some tough catches. The closer you get to the red zone, or the goal line, the tighter the windows are. Guys have to make catches with people contesting them and striking them once they catch it. It’s pretty much the same as every other game.”
On the other side of the ball Miami has been dominating. The Canes are ranked second in total defense, allowing 217 yards per game, ranked first in scoring defense, allowing seven points per game, and ranked fourth in run defense, allowing 65 yards per game.
This will be Miami’s biggest test of the year. Georgia Tech’s option offense is always very difficult to stop.
Over the last 8 years, Tech has rushed for more yards than any team in the nation. Senior Quarterback Justin Thomas who is approaching 2,000 career rushing yards is the orchestrator.
Hurricanes safety Rayshawn Jenkins had 4 tackles in last year’s game and has experience playing against the Yellow Jackets attack.
“It means discipline. Those young guys that haven’t played them before are going to find out real quick that it’s a different type of offense,” said Jenkins. “It’s not just find the ball and go get the ball. It’s keep your eyes on your man and play your man the entire play. You can’t take your eyes off him. It’s a fundamentally sound defense that we’re going to have to play this week. The room for mistakes is very small.”
Atlanta has been kind to Head Coach Mark Richt as he is 8-0 lifetime at Bobby Dodd Stadium and 13-2 all-time against Georgia Tech.
“There will be family there. I don’t know if I’ll see anybody, because we’ll be having our routine the night before the game and everything. There might be a minute where I get to hug everybody’s neck, real quick,” said Richt.
“I have really enjoyed playing there. They get it going. Their students do a great job; their fan base does a great job. It’s going to be a 180-degree contrast of the scenery around. We were looking at mountains last time we played, and now we’ll be looking at mountains of buildings. Both of them have their beauty to it.”
Miami is a seven and half point favorite. The Canes have won six of the last seven meetings with Georgia Tech.
Hurricanes running back Mark Walton looks to pass the century mark for the 4th straight game. Duke Johnson is the last running back to go over 100 yards in 4 straight games.